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    Your Guide to Inverness: Gateway to the Highlands

    By Ross Keddie, Marketing Assistant
    More by Ross

    Capital of the Highlands

    Inverness is the blending of old and new in Scotland. With the castle sitting on the hill, overlooking modern restaurants and hotels, you get the sense of a city holding true to its roots while moving forward. The River Ness is calming to walk beside, there are music and arts on offer, and the green spaces allow for quiet reflection at a moment’s notice. It is a city which is simultaneously small enough to not feel too busy but large enough to get everything you need. It is indeed the perfect Gateway to the Highlands.

    As the starting point for many of our trips, we thought we’d take some time to explore this delightful piece of urban Scotland so that you can get the most out of the days before and after your departure.

    Take me straight to:

    1. Places to Stay
    2. Things to Do in Inverness
    3. Walks in Inverness
    4. Restaurants to Enjoy

    Places to Stay

    Moyness Guest House


    Moyness Guest House has charm going back centuries – literally. A diligently refurbished and restored Victorian townhouse, Moyness House has the air of a place in time which is still enchanting to many. The hosts are welcoming, the furniture classic for the Gilded Age, and it is ideally sited just shy of Inverness City Centre. This makes walking to the train station or further afield perfectly manageable while also being just outside any rush or bustle you may feel by being in a truly urban area. Moyness turns its history into a selling point that makes for an experience not easily replicated anywhere in Scotland, let alone Inverness. Moyness House – Inverness City Centre Bed and Breakfast

    Rocpool Reserve


    Rocpool Reserve is the ultimate cosy nook in Inverness. This discrete boutique hotel is utter decadence. They have a room category called Decadent, but it’s tucked away in a manner where it never seems ostentatious to those not staying within. With velvet robes and extra fluffy towels as standard, you know that it’s a place to relax and unwind. You also have a fine dining establishment and bar at your fingertips, so you know you don’t need to go far to get your relaxation needs fulfilled.

    With twenty-four-hour attendants, there’s service which would put a palace to shame. The staff’s attitude is entirely geared towards the guest, so you’ll quickly understand why Rocpool has such a sterling reputation. With upgrades ranging from champagne to in-room massage, every need and desire is fulfilled at this delightfully decadent boutique hotel.
    Rocpool Reserve Luxury Boutique Hotel Inverness Scotland

    Pentahotel


    Pentahotel strides the line between quirky student accommodation and easy hang out. It is a relaxed venue where everyone can chill out and relax after a long day on the hill or some time spent in Inverness. There’s a bar on site which feels modern and a restaurant geared towards comfort food. This makes Pentahotel is the perfect home away from home to step into on your trip away to Inverness. This is especially clear from their easy going attitude as you settle in.
    Pentahotel Inverness | Pentahotels

    Kingsmills Hotel


    Kingsmills Hotel is a four star destination for those who just want to quietly unwind. Located in Culcabock, an exceedingly green area in a refreshingly green city, you can feel the tranquility here. Close enough to the city to go for dinner or enjoy a show, it is the sort of place which seems tranquil at night. The upscale residential area is picturesque and and peaceful, and Kingsmill has all you’ll need for your stay. The rooms are lavish and comfortable, and the views over the golf course as the light fades in the day allow you to relax entirely.
    Luxury Hotel Inverness Scotland | Kingsmills Hotel

    Things to Do in Inverness

    Culloden


    The last major battle on British soil put an end to the Jacobite Rebellions once and for all, not far from Inverness. Take in the battle site and interactive information centre, which walks you through this bloody day in history. With modern exhibits, you can fully enjoy the spectacle of Culloden as the visitor centre paints a vivid picture. Walk out onto the battlefield itself to get a real feel for what happened here in hundreds of meters of grim moorland. There are also grave markers for the various clans who fought and fell here. Many scattered across the sea in the Highland Clearances which followed. This site is a true testament to a bygone era of rebellion and conflict in Great Britain. Discover more about what happened at Culloden in our blog.

    Eden Court


    Eden Court plays host to a variety of shows from across Scotland and beyond each year. Its two stages and studios allow for a range of theatre and visual performances of all sizes, and art galleries spring up in the spaces set aside for all sorts of presentations. There is always something on at Eden Court, including the latest hits on the big screen, as the venue also hosts two cinema screens.

    Take your time to take in the arts and relax before or after your great adventure. With particular focus given to the cultural heritage of the highlands, you can take in more of what makes the region so special. From songs to traditional crafts on display so that you can immerse yourself in Scottish culture.

    Hootananny


    Hootananny is an Inverness institution, and one night there tells you why. With traditional music hosted there almost every night and a vibrant atmosphere, Hootananny’s is a must-see for any visitor. Though the menu has some hearty fare on it, it is the atmosphere which makes this space so memorable. Opportunities to dance with strangers and learn new songs spring up organically, leaving fond memories. Then skip – or stumble – home after a night enjoying a proper hootananny and swear to visit again soon.

    Urquhart Castle

    Inverness Castle is a gorgeous part of the city’s skyline, but with renovations on until 2025 only the picturesque gardens and one of the castle’s towers are open to the public. Luckily, one of Scotland’s most breathtaking castles, situated strategically on the banks of Loch Ness, is within a stone’s throw of Inverness. The place has a certain tumbled majesty to it, and the moment you stand here you feel why it was built. Surrounded on 3 sides by water and blocking part of The Great Glen, this the ideal place for a fortress.

    An easy bus route and viewing times make it easy to access Urquhart Castle, so it’s well worth a visit. You can walk these ancient ruins and feel the history washing over you. From Scottish Wars of Independence to The Jacobite Rebellions, Urquhart Castle has been pivotal to Scottish history. Get a feel for the importance of this place alongside views of Loch Ness as you enjoy a tranquil walk today. Learn more about Urquhart Castle in our blog.

    Urquhart Castle near Inverness, Scotland.

    Leakey’s Bookshop

    Stepping into Leakey’s is like stepping into another world. The hush of reverence is usually reserved for libraries, bookshops and churches – and it just so happens that Leakey’s is almost all three in one.

    The second-hand book store resides within a second-hand Gaelic kirk and has occupied that space wall to wall with books. Despite its nondescript visage it is only when you enter the cavernous space that you appreciate why it’s so revered. Scotland’s largest second-hand book store is such a beautiful thing. There is a comforting smell of old paper and leather, an intimacy that makes you want to reach out and caress weathered spines. Titles and covers present themselves like suitors or companions. I have always struggled to not one with me when I finish any visits.

    Before you set out on your trip, take a moment to see what adventures you may discover between these pages. It is the perfect highland hideaway for any bibliophile.

    Leakey's, the largest secondhand bookstore in Scotland.

    Walks in Inverness

    Islands Walk

    The Islands on the River Ness are vibrant little oases of green surrounded by the picturesque flowing river. The pathways are well maintained and seem to invite you to explore little nooks and glades between the trees. You’re never far from the soothing sound of the river, which seems to encourage you to unwind. This gentle walk is especially welcome as it is close to Inverness city centre. Despite this, it feels so very removed from any hubbub, giving a welcome space to reflect on experiences just had or yet to come.

    Canal Walk

    The Caledonian Canal cuts a straight line across the Highlands for 60 miles of untouched beauty which will leave your heart singing. However, 60 miles is a long way to dance for an afternoon jaunt, so why not just take yourself along the canal by Inverness? You’ll still get the gorgeous scenery, particularly over the Beauly Firth, but this easy walk is much easier on tired soles who still want to get out and enjoy the fresh air. It also doesn’t feel like you’re close to an urban landscape at all due to the way that the trees and foliage hug the canal.

    Merkinch Nature Reserve

    Merkinch is a little oasis of nature right beside Inverness. Here you can spot all sorts of wildlife and waterfowl, ranging from majestic herons to squirrels and martins. The well-maintained paths seem to curl naturally through the landscape. This adds to the sense of tranquillity which forms in this space despite its proximity to the city. Easily accessed by following the river and then entering the path network, it’s easy to find why the walks rejuvenate locals and visitors alike. Step into nature while staying close to the city and enjoy the wildlife all around you.

    Bridge to the Islands walk, Inverness.

    Bridge to the Islands walk, Inverness.

    Pathway along canal, Inverness Scotland

    Pathway along canal, Inverness Scotland

    Restaurants to Enjoy

    The Mustard Seed


    The Mustard Seed screams tasty with welcoming autumnal tones all throughout. The food is a mixture of local seasonal selections while always having something new from the continent. Their pre-theatre dinner deals are especially good, the price point, in general, is very appetising for the quality. The Mustard Seed serves significantly lighter fare than a lot of the more classic options in Inverness. This can leave you with flavours which last and leaves you wanting more instead of bogged down, all while not being too hard on the pocket.

    Girvans


    This innocuous little restaurant is a local favourite. Located on a surprisingly steep street, it is surrounded by other great little restaurants such as the Fig and Thistle. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss this hidden gem of a dining experience. Girvans stands out with its bright interior and menu choices, particularly their steak sandwich. The only catch is that they only do food between 9 in the morning and 5 in the evening, meaning that a meal here is a rare treat for locals who don’t live quite so close.

    River House

     

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    A post shared by River House (@riverhouseinv)


    For the best seafood I’ve always found you need to be by the water, and that’s certainly the case with River House. Located directly by the banks of the River Ness, their exterior seating area is arguably the best in the city. The restaurant capitalises on this with a freshness to its menu which is mouth-watering. River House offers a wide array of seafood choices which will make you wonder why you’d go anywhere else. They’re especially well known for their oysters and a sharing platter which will leave you utterly satisfied.

    Prime – Steak and Seafood


    Prime’s reputation for top-class cuisine is well earned. Prime has been providing an innovative dining experience since it was opened, focusing on its titular seafood and steak. With a chic layout and the guarantee your steak will be perfectly seared, Prime is a great venue. It delivers a wonderful dining experience and atmosphere while letting you enjoy the views. The menu also includes lighter options, such as their stand-out steak or king prawn salads and some more casual options.

    More Things to Do

    Meet the Author: Ross Keddie

    “Having grown up in Glasgow, I've always had restless feet. They've taken me across the ocean to North America, around Europe and all over Scotland. Having paused to get a degree in Adventure (yes, literally!) I'm incredibly lucky to be able to pursue my passion for writing and travel with Wilderness Scotland.”

    View profileMore by Ross

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